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Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill

04 Dec

510xUaXhN0L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_On a dark November evening at the turn of the century, three medical students make an unholy pact.  For the young Hugh Meredith, it is the beginning of a nightmare that will pursue him to the grave – and perhaps beyond.

In the cellar of their narrow lodging house in Printer’s Devil court, and in a subterranean annex of the hospital, they begin to experiment with the boundaries that separate the living from the dead, witnessing events both extraordinary and terrifying.

Years later, when Hugh must return to Printer’s Devil Court and face his demons, strange events take clear that his youthful actions have had consequences worse than anything he could have imagined.

It’s the time of year when the nights start to close in and that makes it perfect for a traditional ghost story, especially a macabre tale in the Victorian style of M.R. James.

I have a slinky hardback copy of this book with the evocative and embossed dust jacket that feels pleasingly tactile. Once I removed the dust jacket, the black cover underneath was perfect for the story and was a nice mirror to the black and white illustrations inside which are a nice touch and evoke the types of storytelling that these days has fallen out of favour.

I’ve always found the immediacy of any story is linked with the touch (and smell) of a book – one of the many reasons why I avoid e-readers – is another reason why I found the story more effective, not in the form of scariness though.  This book isn’t scary but to feel disappointed by that omission is, I believe to miss the point.

The book harks back to the days of the classic ghost story and the tale has the feel of its older predecessors, its sparse and wonderfully Gothic and in that respect it doesn’t have an effect on the modern audience that is would have done back then.  Much in the same way that A Christmas Carol or Casting the Runes don’t inspire dread these days, the pseudo science of the book won’t take in the reader but does provide a pleasantly eerie idea from a less advanced time.

The story itself is short and neat with plenty of familiar nods to classic genre fare; dubious medical practises, fog enshrouded set pieces and Hill has chosen to leave some questions unanswered which is fine, a story works well when there are parts to fill in with one’s imagination.  The characters feel a little under developed for my taste, I could have done with a little more about them not to mention their original motivations but it isn’t a major drawback.

Printer’s Devil Court doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of woman in black, I enjoyed it though, whilst there is a sinister thought or two to be had on the crazy minds of humans, I find it more of a tribute to the type of stories the horror genre is built upon. At 105 pages it’s a tale to be read in a sitting or two, perfect for the small amount of leisure time that the busy month of December helps.  If anything the book is a little too short, another fifty pages would have been enough to give it a little more fleshing out but for what it is it’s a decent buy, just perhaps not at full price.

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39 Comments

Posted by on 04/12/2015 in Horror

 

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39 responses to “Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill

  1. colemining

    04/12/2015 at 18:30

    I’m all about the ghost stories right now. Will add this one to the list!

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    • Ste J

      04/12/2015 at 18:36

      I love reading them at this time of year, in fact it’s probably the only time I go out of my way to read them. Make sure you have a nice glass of port to go with it!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • colemining

        04/12/2015 at 19:03

        I think I’ll stick to the Scotch (I find Port too sweet…), but yes, that combo- Xmas, ghost stories and a warming cocktail are just the ticket! I think, having grown up with ‘A Christmas Carol’ and all its iterations as part of the background, I associate this time of year with ghosts and such… interesting.

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        • Ste J

          04/12/2015 at 19:29

          It is such a perfect piece of fiction, when I first read it as an adult I was really impressed by its tightness. It’s the perfect platform for loving literature, a good chill in your warm home is always extra special at Christmas.

          Liked by 1 person

           
  2. Sheila

    04/12/2015 at 20:23

    It’s funny how that time period is so perfect for ghost stories, and most ghosts seem to be from that time period. Maybe because of the weather or fashion styles. I’ll have to look into this one and now you’ve also put me in the mood for A Christmas Carol.

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    • Ste J

      04/12/2015 at 20:46

      A Christmas Carol is always a welcome treat! It really is a wonderful time for setting such stories and nothing beats a good foggy, brooding atmosphere.

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  3. gargoylebruce

    04/12/2015 at 20:38

    Susan Hill is great for a scare. I’m still trying to envisage how the word slinky can be applied to a hardcover book. If anyone wants me, I’ll be on my shelf, conducting slinkiness experiments with my hardcover books

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    • Ste J

      04/12/2015 at 20:43

      It’s not applied in the same way that I wear a slinky black number out to parties, it gets quite drafty when the spring opens and closes.

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      • gargoylebruce

        04/12/2015 at 20:45

        You must be burning the midnight oil. It’s 6.45am over here!!

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        • Ste J

          04/12/2015 at 20:47

          It’s 8:45pm here and I’ll be off to work in a bit, I’m more on Australian time these days.

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          • gargoylebruce

            04/12/2015 at 20:48

            I thought we were only 9 hours apart. My bad. Carry on sir.

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            • Ste J

              04/12/2015 at 21:03

              The time differences between countries confuses me as much as working over the night shift and being confused over what day it is, in short I am clueless in general.

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              • gargoylebruce

                04/12/2015 at 21:05

                How is the body-snatching going, incidentally? That of course being the only night shift job I can imagine you doing.

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                • Ste J

                  04/12/2015 at 21:14

                  My heart’s not in it..so the search must continue, I also require a left lung and another appendix for my necklace, or as I call it my appendices.

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  4. Resa

    04/12/2015 at 22:09

    Love the dust cover! I know… don’t judge a book by its cover, yet your review lived up to my perception.
    In terms of a lesser effect on a modern audience goes, how does “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” work out?

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    • Ste J

      05/12/2015 at 16:49

      Dorian Gray has the same effect, I enjoyed it and the idea is a little unsettling but these days I think it takes a lot more, especially with all the imaginative ways of murder and such we see on the TV, both fictional and real. I prefer the old school unsettling in terms of literary fare but it can’t have the same impact as the world has changed, it is good to cosy up with though.

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      • Resa

        06/12/2015 at 18:03

        Sigh, well, I enjoy writing from time to time. Oddly enough when I have grammar questions, and want actual examples, I use my Dorian Gray book. I believe Oscar Wilde has held up on this point.

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  5. Jill Weatherholt

    05/12/2015 at 02:05

    Great review, Ste J. I agree with Sheila…I’m in the mood for A Christmas Carol.

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    • Ste J

      05/12/2015 at 16:51

      A story that just gets better with age, it’s also impressive to see Dickens could write something that didn;t sprawl both plot wise and over the page with his eccentric sentence structure.

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  6. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    05/12/2015 at 10:29

    My favourite 😀 Ghost stories, even I’m trying to write one at the moment. The first part is there on my blog… 🙂

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    • Ste J

      05/12/2015 at 16:46

      Excellent, I shall be over to have a look. I feel I need to visit more, if only there was time!

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  7. shadowoperator

    05/12/2015 at 13:36

    Hi, Ste J. I don’t know if Susan Hill published this book recently or farther back in time, but it sounds very, very like the movie (which came out about 1992) called “Flatliners,” in which several graduate students in medicine get together to experiment to achieve some of those “I saw a white light, and went toward it” sort of borderline life-death experiences that people who have nearly died on the operating table say they have. Each of them has an experience of “flatlining,” or dying, and coming back, except I think one student doesn’t make it back or something, and there are consequences. It wouldn’t be the first time a movie pirated from a book or a book from a movie, but they are so close-sounding that I can’t help but wonder if there was some more honest attribution and relationship going on somewhere. Got any ideas?

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    • Ste J

      05/12/2015 at 18:46

      Printer’s Devil Court came out in 2014 and actually takes a different turn from Flatliners or should I say an inverse turn to avoid too much in the way of spoilers. PDC has more owing to Frankenstein, I wonder how modern the idea for Flatliners is, in terms of philosophical thought on death.

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  8. clarepooley33

    05/12/2015 at 23:39

    I do not enjoy the violent, visceral type of ghost/horror stories and avoid them if I possibly can. However, I don’t mind the old-fashioned type of ghost story – Wilde, M R James and Dickens et al. I try to read A Christmas Carol each Christmas. I might enjoy Susan Hill’s ghost stories – I like her books of short stories ‘A Bit of Singing and Dancing’ and ‘Listening to the Orchestra’.

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    • Ste J

      06/12/2015 at 15:44

      Of all the ghost stories of Hill’s that I have read have their emphasis on the chill factor as opposed to anything violent, The Woman in Black is of course my favourite, so much better than the film with its predictable scares. I have read some of Hill’s novellas but not short stories, I must add them to my list.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • clarepooley33

        06/12/2015 at 22:24

        I have also read ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ which is lovely. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/oct/25/howards-end-susan-hill

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        • Ste J

          07/12/2015 at 13:56

          This one is on my list as well, books about books are the best. I enjoyed a Pound of Paper by John Baxter but would gladly welcome some more book loving, it just proves we are right to love reading in all its forms.

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • clarepooley33

            07/12/2015 at 22:34

            I hadn’t heard of the John Baxter – it’s now on my list!

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            • Ste J

              10/12/2015 at 19:44

              I only heard of him when his book was reviewed on the radio, I’m very pleased I did though even if I hadn’t heard of a lot of books he mentioned, it was just great to share in his love.

              Liked by 1 person

               
              • clarepooley33

                10/12/2015 at 20:44

                I love book and film reviews for exactly the same reason as you.

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                • Ste J

                  10/12/2015 at 20:53

                  It is good to come across things previously not heard of, Radio 5 live is where I got a lot of my books from back in the day.

                  Liked by 1 person

                   
                  • clarepooley33

                    10/12/2015 at 21:12

                    I think the only time that I’ve listened to Radio 5 Live is when Richard puts the football results on when we are driving! I love collecting lists of books to read. The notes pages in my diary are full of book titles (and films and music/songs!)

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                    • Ste J

                      11/12/2015 at 16:51

                      I love lists too, I particularly enjoy those books and films that don’t sound like they appeal but must have for some reason for you to write down and they then blow us away…it’s like learning to trust myself all over again.

                      Liked by 1 person

                       
                    • clarepooley33

                      11/12/2015 at 21:27

                      Yes! 😀

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  9. Sherri

    09/12/2015 at 15:31

    Sounds like a nice, short read…I do like a bit of Gothic horror… now and then.

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    • Ste J

      10/12/2015 at 19:43

      Perfect for the season and pleasantly ghoulish, it’s just perfect in the run up to the big day.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. The Book Haven

    26/12/2015 at 22:26

    The Woman in Black was indeed creepy (the movie wasn’t bad either). Too bad this one isn’t as scary. The cover looks great though and I guess a tempting 105 pages is worth a try.

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    • Ste J

      27/12/2015 at 14:54

      I was a bit disappointed with the movie, the scare seemed pretty predictable, rather than a film based around the jump value it would have been better for it to brood along and then unexpectedly add a jump and then, rather than signpost them so blatantly. As long as you enter into the spirit of a good old fashioned ghost story that is more about atmosphere than chills then it is enjoyable enough and the cover does look good on the shelves as well.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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